Traditionally, safaris are geared toward adults and are not overly accommodating to children. Game drives that require long hours of sitting still in a cramped vehicle in the hot sun can be a nightmare for younger kids especially — and their parents! Fortunately, there are numerous kid-friendly safaris throughout Africa which specialize in cultural entertainment, educational enrichment, and teaching bush skills. Here are 10 of the best African safaris for those with children.
1. Madikwe Safari Lodge, South Africa
The first lodge on our list offers game drives to adults and children six years and older, plus lessons in various bush skills, such as building a fire, making a toothbrush, and how to find water to brush teeth with. One of Madikwe’s more interesting features is a program called Bug CSI, where kids learn how to track different insects and plants.
2. Camp Jabulani, South Africa
Children of all ages are welcome at Camp Jabulani and includes an impressive amount of activities grouped into a program called Team Tusker. Kids can learn about traditional African song and dance, as well as use their creativity in a fun dress-up party. Some of the more unique activities include learning to use 2-way radios, star naming, and making paper out of recycled elephant dung. Of course, children are also welcome to join an elephant-back safari.
3. Makgadikgadi Pans, Botswana
During this family-friendly 10-day safari offered by Audley Travel, visitors of all ages can play with meerkats and look for aardwolves and aardvarks in the Makgadikgadi Pans in the Botswanan Kalahari. Kid-specific activities include learning bush survival skills, building campfires, constructing bows and arrows, and learning how to remain completely undetected while moving through camp. Children can also go quad-biking on the bed of the fossil-covered super-lake that covered the Kalahari desert millions of years ago. During the second leg of the trip, children get to go on a boat ride through the Shinde Concession, where a diverse array of wildlife including birds, hippos, and giraffes can be spotted from the water.
4. Kwande Ecca Lodge, South Africa
Featuring a dedicated team that specializes in taking care of kids, this lodge is a perfect spot for a family vacation. Children get to go on a “Bugs and Bones” excursion, where they will learn how to identify insects, bones, and skulls. During their stay kids are also enthusiastically encouraged to help the chefs with meal preparation through the “Chefs in Training” program, where they will make chocolate molds and creature cookies. Other activities and amenities include face painting, sand art, and a fishing trip, a children’s play center and a malaria-free environment.
5. Londolozi Varty Camp, South Africa
This camp has a “Cubs” program that involves crafts, fun, and activities that make the wilderness accessible to children. Kids can swim with fish, make candles and papier mache, learn gumboot dancing, and try their hand at baking. There are also bushveld excursions led by a naturalist who teaches kids about spoor spotting, bug catching, and dung spitting. Children age 4 and up are welcome in the camp, and those 6 and up can go on game drives.
6. Morukuru, South Africa
This camp was created specifically by families, for families. As such, it doesn’t have a specific kids programme, but offers activities that kids are bound to like such as spoor tracking lessons, bead making, mini bush walks, scrapbooking and board games. Children are also welcome to ride along on game drives. The camp is completely fenced so kids can wander without fear of getting lost, which gives parents peace of mind. An experience nanny can also watch the kids when parents need adult time.
7. Sabi Sabi Bush Lodge, South Africa
This lodge features a children’s facility called the EleFun Centre that helps to advance awareness and respect for nature. Some activities include adventure walks, bird identification lessons, and education on bushveld animals and bugs. There are two different programs based on the age range of the children.
8. Sossusvlei Lodge, Namibia
This eco-friendly lodge and safari camp in Sossusvlei features a wide variety of activities for youngsters. One of the best things to do here is stargazing, as the Kalahari desert is virtually free of light pollution. Other kid-centric activities include learning to find water in the desert, birdwatching, and morning nature drives in Sesriem Canyon.
9. Mala Mala Camp, South Africa
This camp seeks not only to entertain, but to educate children as well. One unique experience is a “survivor challenge” where kids must practice seeking out water, identifying what plants to eat, and determining their medicinal and practical uses. Other activities include game walks, learning how to make fire and cook a bush meal outdoors, and learning radio communication.
10. Tswalu, South Africa
This is one of the few luxury reserves that allows children. It is located in an area of the Kalahari that is malaria free. Some of the many kids’ activities include archery, casting, and tracking on foot. The open-plan camp also has swimming pools, babysitting services, and suites that are designed to accommodate larger or older families.
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This article was originally published May 21, 2014.